My first memory with my best friend is when we were around four years old. We were in the playground of the first school we attended together, playing Harry Potter. I was Hermione and she was Harry. She and my sister were arguing because she’d taken the best role. At the time, it felt like a big deal to see them fighting like that. But we look back on it and laugh over eighteen years later. A friendship that survives so strong has to be a strong one, and I’ve always been aware of that.
We grew up together, staying at the same high school and college, and then attending university in the same city. Now that it is all over, we have headed back to our tiny home town where we live a ten minute walk from each other’s house. We’re practically joined at the hip. It is nearly always been that way. We have only ever had one big argument. We have always had each other’s backs, even in the years when we drifted apart a little. We have always been able to make the other laugh, and we’re on the same emotional level. We are the perfect ingredients for a healthy and happy friendship. There’s a reason we have lasted this long, even with our many differences. But I always knew that while I would be willing to put my friendship before relationship issues, she might not do the same. With her, her partner was destined to be such a heavy focus of her life, that any break up would end in floods of tears. And I guess in the end that was my prediction for her future that unfortunately came true.
We both entered serious relationships during college. She started dating our friend of ten years, and I met someone new while we were studying. Like everything, we seemed to do is in sync. Our relationships began only a month apart, and they continued for four happy years. I saw us getting married to those people. I saw myself as the maid of honour at my best friend’s wedding, and that’s why I put my friendship before relationship issues for a while. Because when that dream ended, I knew it would be the end of the world for my best girl.
The day my best friend and her partner broke up was a hard one. After four years together, she was broken, and I understood the feeling only two well. It was her first broken heart. She’d never experienced it before, though she’d watch me break my own plenty of times. She’s always been sensitive, and the moment she told me, I knew that it was going to be important that I was there for her. She felt lost without the aid of her partner, and as her best friend, it was my job to try and fill the void. That’s why when things went wrong with my partner, I still put my friendship before relationship issues for a month.
Girls need a lot of support when they go through a break up. They need someone to hit the gym with, someone’s shoulder to cry on, and someone to help take down all the photographs in their bedrooms. They need someone to live out all of the memories they shared before packing them away together. They need someone to drink lots of wine with, and they need someone to laugh with them until their laughter turns to tears and they break down. I knew all of this. It is not something that people tell you, necessarily. It is instinct as a friend, and I had a job to do.
It is something that boys don’t tend to understand, which is possibly why my boyfriend couldn’t understand why I wasn’t spending time with him. He lived nearly two hours away on the train, and while we made it work for the most part, it was difficult motivating myself to hop on a train when I knew my best friend was at home in a broken mess. It wasn’t a hard choice, actually. I knew that she needed me more than he did. I thought maybe the time apart might even make him appreciate me a bit more. But in the end, I was wrong.
I told him that I needed to be there for my girl, not realising that I was damaging things by putting my friendship before relationship problems. I hadn’t realised things were going wrong in the first place, so I ignored all of the signs until it was too late. I ignored the snippy texts he sent, and the cruel jokes he made about my best friend’s situation. I ignored how he wouldn’t text me for hours, and I ignored the fact that I missed him because I knew I couldn’t not put my friendship before relationship issues for the time being. I couldn’t abandon her for anyone, not even the love of my life.
My best friend and I were spending a lot of time together, and I hadn’t seen my partner for a week when he told me he needed more attention. I was surprised, because he’s never usually so open. In fact, he and I have survived most of our relationship without any real issues, so when this conversation cropped up, I knew I was destined for trouble. Without me knowing, he’d began to feel neglected, and I hadn’t done anything to solve the problem. I had no idea how to make things better. My girl was suffering, but so was my man, and that made it hard to split my time. But I ended up telling my partner that he’d have to stick it out for a while longer. He could see that I put my friendship before relationship issues we were having, and of course, he was angry, as you would be.
It might seem like I’m a bad girlfriend. But I pride myself on being a good friend above all other things, and I knew in that moment that my girl needed me more. Even if it makes me a bad partner, I have to put friendship before relationship issues. All I know is that my best friend has always been with me. Relationships break down all the time. Countless guys have left me for a better offer, or a less difficult relationship, or someone generally better than me. I brace myself for it now. But I wouldn’t compromise my friendship for anything or anyone because I know that if it is lasted this long, it will last a lifetime. It is the one thing outside of family I’m certain will always stick.
My partner wasn’t used to having to share the attention, and he was simply suffering from withdrawal. But I believe that every relationship can do with a little strain at times. It reminds you that you care, more than you sometimes let on. I think it did my man good to spend some time away from me. I know I went back to him loving him a little more than I did before, simply because I had been deprived of him. I know he acted out when I didn’t give him what he wanted, but it just proved to me that he actually did care. His jealousy meant that it mattered to him, even if he didn’t always say it out loud. I think the same went for his experience.
We did suffer during. My partner felt that he didn’t matter as much, and that wasn’t my intention. I was just more aware of my friend’s needs than his, because she had more of a reason to feel depressed. It is not like I abandoned my man completely. We saw each other several times that month, but for once, I made him make the effort to come to visit me. It was always assumed that I would visit him, and in all honesty, I had grown tired of being the only one to put in the effort. In some ways, the month we spent apart weeded out all of our problems. It might have been hard, but it got things done.
We had a lot to fix between the pair of us, but I was constantly finding ways to be grateful. I reminded my partner after the mourning period was over that at least we still had one another – my friend had lost who she had thought would be her life partner. My partner and I had struggled through, and come out stronger. That was the difference in scenario, and I think it made us see what we have is special. We are resilient, and we’ll make it through – even if sometimes I have to put someone else first. He understands me a little better, and I see underneath the surface. He can keep his emotions buried all he likes, because now, I will be able to see right through him. I know each twitch of his face. I know every tiny shift in his personality. That month where I put my friendship before relationship issues, I learned so much about the man that I love. Now, no matter what, I know I can make things work out between us. We are back and stronger than ever.
The important thing my partner learned was that it wasn’t about him. He’s used to being at the centre of my world, but what he didn’t realise at the time is that he has always shared that spot with my best friend. They’re equally important to me, and some people might think that is wrong, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I believe in two types of soulmates – the romantic kind and the bond you share with your lifelong best friend. We know each other so well that I can’t think of her as anything less than a life-partner in the most innocent sense.
It made him realise I have a life outside of him, and other people I will sacrifice for aside from him. My friend and I have known each other all our lives, and so, of course, she’s equally as important to me as he is. In the future, maybe he will realise that there’s someone else he’d sacrifice for too. Whether it’s a girl who steals his heart, a family member who needs him, or a good friend of his, I will prepare myself for him to leave me, whether temporarily of forever. If and when it happens, I will try to be ready for the moment where he pulls away and leaves me stranded. When he does, I will remember my best friend, and I will know the pain is worth it to save someone’s broken heart.